Support Protecting Rare Birds in California

sandhill crane

Target: Mark R. Tercek, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Nature Conservancy

Goal: Applaud program that creates habitat for rare shorebirds in California’s Central Valley

Ninety percent of California’s wetlands have been converted for agricultural use, leaving migratory shorebirds with no place to land. With a mere five percent of the state’s wetlands left, the fraction of birds that remain are forced to rely on farms to make their winter homes as they migrate along the Pacific Flyaway, a journey that takes them from Alaska all the way to Patagonia. Thankfully, a diverse group of conservation biologists, engineers, and farmers have teamed up to create BirdReturns, a project aimed at making farms more hospitable to migratory bird populations. Applaud this new project that employs digital technology to get local community members directly involved in wildlife conservation.

The project’s approach aims to create habitat for the birds while ensuring farmers can still maintain their yields. Funded by the Nature Conservancy, the project uses an innovative model that mobilizes smartphone users to contribute data on where the birds land throughout the valley via an app called eBird. From that data, scientists at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology can map where the birds’ need for habitat is greatest. The Nature Conservancy then compensates rice farmers in the birds’ flightpath for engaging in certain conservation actions, namely flooding their fields at crucial times to create “pop-up” wetlands for the shorebirds. The program has produced promising results in that record numbers of birds were already found roosting and settling in the new habitats early in the migration season. The program’s ultimate goal: to create one million acres of habitat for migratory shorebirds.

By signing the petition below, you can support these innovative and collaborative efforts to care for a fragile, but vital ecosystem.


Dear Mr. Tercek,

I would like to offer my sincere thanks for your efforts to make farms more hospitable to migratory shorebirds in California’s Central Valley. Your BirdReturns project demonstrates on several levels the power of collaboration between various groups from scientists to farmers to local community members to produce innovative conservation strategies.

Your market-based approach that compensates farmers for undertaking bird-friendly actions demonstrates that caring for ecosystems makes economic sense. Using smartphone technology to drive data collection, you are empowering local citizens to take in part in conserving the wildlife that shares their home. I wish you the best of luck in the continuation of your project. I hope that your groundbreaking leadership in reconciliation biology may serve as a future model to balance ecological and agricultural interests alike.


[Your  Name Here]

Photo Credit: Andrea Westmoreland via Fotopedia

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One Comment

  1. Sheila Jefferson says:

    Thank you!!! 🙂

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